Plastic Hippos

Plastic Hippos

“When you’ve been in the jungle as long as I have you begin to smell…… danger!… you, uh,… begin to smell danger!”

Years ago… (well actually, it feels like a lifetime ago), I was a Jungle Cruise skipper at Disneyland. 

Yep… those were the days.Taking tourists through an artificial jungle and when necessary defending my defenseless crew from marauding fiberglass hippos…. with a .38 Smith and Wesson K frame revolver.

Yeah… two imaginary tons of water born death, advancing with steely glass eyes… the number one killer in Africa… and I have a .38 revolver.

Not good odds… but miraculously each time the “hippos” would submerge “terrified” from my clearly missed shots… (We were instructed to “scare” the plastic hippos… not aim and try to kill them).

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What I found so interesting was our instructions regarding the next part of our eight minute journey.

As we would leave the hippo pool, we would pass by a canoe filled with human skulls.

Clearly a foreboding sight… and meant as an obvious warning to those who traveled down the river.

Soon the sounds of celebration could be heard and my crew were treated to the visual spectacle of natives dancing around a dead lion hung upside down. 

We had been instructed to let our guests know that this evillion had been terrorizing this village and now the villagers were safe.

(I guess this means they could now go back to filling the canoe with new skulls,.. but I digress…)

Then as we basked in the glow of these now “peaceful” natives, we were ambushed from a group of not so peaceful natives from our port side.

Even though we had a perfectly good revolver with us our choice form of defense was to “duck” and power down the river.


Ok… Disneyland is a fairly sterile environment and in fairness not one that should scare the little ones… at least not too much.

Still… messages can have far deeper implications. Especially when they are subtle.

Disneyland… hell, the whole Disney empire is replete with violence. 

From the purely biological of animals wanting to feed on one another to the vilification of the noble hunter. 

Yeah… Bambi’s mother was killed by someone… and that someone was a big bad dude who hunted for sport.

So children grow up with an anti-hunting agenda floating around their media worlds, and when they see guns in real life… (if a day at Disneyland could be considered “real life”), they see those guns being shot into the air rather than at advancing hippos… and never never never at headhunters that are threatening to throw spears at you and add another layer to their trophy canoe. 

Interestingly, it was not always like this.

Disney used to have a real air powered pellet gun shooting arcade, and the stores in Frontierland used to sell firearm replicas that looked like actual flintlocks… and even the plastic Lone Ranger plastic six shooter cap guns were available for young “Frontiersmen”.

During this time, there were no school shootings… the concept of the “Active Shooter” was someone who went to the range regularly, and the most likely interaction someone growing up had with violence was mixing it up with a neighborhood bully who in the end could wind up being a close friend.

Now, we have a neutered saccharine playground. 

There are no replica guns for sale in Frontierland. 

The pellet guns have been replaced with “laser” guns… and we have been introduced to a new version of the “Active Shooter” … a monster that preys on the innocent…… 

and we shoot in the sky when plastic hippos charge our boats.


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